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The Belize Bus Association Says a National Bus Shut Down is Being Planned

Members of the Belize Bus Association (BBA) are preparing to bring a halt to the public transportation after negotiations with the Department of Transport have stalled. The group has been hoping to get the green light from the ministry to increase the bus fares in light of the steadily increasing fuel prices. Negotiations have not been moving as efficiently as they would like and so the BBA has decided to initiate a national shut down of the commuters’ buses. Senior Reporter Hipolito Novelo spoke to the Secretary of the BBA, Ewart Metzgen.

Reporter: Because of the continued increase in fuel prices, the decision has been made. The Belize Bus Association, BBA, will stage a nationwide strike, but when?

Ewart Metzgen, Secretary, Belize Bus Association: We have decided and it’s final that, yes, we will do so.”

Reporter: The national strike? Do you know when that would happen?

Ewart Metzgen, Secretary, Belize Bus Association:  “We will not give a day or a time but it could be today or tomorrow. It could be sometime between tomorrow and next week.”

Reporter: But how soon can commuters, the public, expect?

Ewart Metzgen, Secretary, Belize Bus Association: Sooner rather than later. We are trying to see if the government would come in and sit down with us and try and see if we can work something out.”

Reporter: And whatever needs to be worked out needs to happen in two weeks because,  as the secretary of the BBA told Love News, operators aren’t willing to wait two whole weeks for Cabinet’s consideration to approve an increase in bus fares especially given the fast rate fuel prices are skyrocketing. 

Metzgen: “For bus operators, this takes ⅔ of our revenue and as the fuel rises, the more the cost of operating goes up and we just do not have fuel. We’ve got to pay our employees. We made a proposal about the increase. We were told point blank that that can’t happen and bus operators can’t raise any prices, that has to be done by Cabinet. Then I told the minister that the water taxis have already risen prices already to, to, on the public. I mean, we have some taxi operators that have taken up their prices We were told point blank, that can’t happen. Only Cabinet will make that decision and I asked him, then when would Cabinet look at it? He told us two weeks and I told him, minister, with all due respect, we can;t wait two weeks.”

Reporter: The fear that in two weeks, fuel prices will take another jump and this time, passing the $15 mark. The BBA has 38 members and while that number might seem small, these members collectively dominate the bus industry in the country

Metzgen: “All the largest bus operators in this country come under the umbrella of the BBA so that in itself speaks the volume. Don’t worry about the 38. It’s the five larger operators that will put the hurting on the transport sector.”

Reporter: I am worrying for the runs. 

Metzgen: “We cover country. We cover the whole country. So the five larger, I’m talking about the operators from north to south and to the west. We, those all the operators, the larger operators fall under the BBA umbrella and just with those five operators alone, if just us five move, this country is shut down.”

Reporter: There are also other bus lines that are not part of the BBA.

Metzgen: “I know you’ll ask me if we don’t run they’ll bring them in.”

Reporter: They’ll bring them in. 

Metzgen: “There’s a contingency plan for that my brother and that is as much as I will say on that.”

Reporter: You’re talking about on the street demonstration, burning tires and things. 

Metzgen: I am not saying anything more my brother but while it happens it happens.” 

Reporter: Because the government will be strategic. 

Metzgen: “And we know that.”

Reporter: They will bring in other bus companies to take over your runs because you want to strike and the public will run with it because they will get pretty buses.

Metzgen: “And we’ve thought of it. We’ve thought of all that and we’ve thought it through and we know that some of us will probably be arrested. We’ll, we’ve thought this thing through.”

Reporter: You’re talking about civil disobedience to stand up for what you believe in?

Metzgen:But we’re standing up for, not only for ourselves but for the Belizean man and woman out there who I may say are all feeling this thing. “Wi chro wi stone and wi haid wi han.”

Reporter: And bus operators are done hiding their frustrations. They say after several unsuccessful dialogue with GOB officials, they are being pushed to strike. 

Metzgen: “We are being pushed to do this because we have sat with the Minister of Transport and his deputy, the CEO and the CTO and others from the department and we have told them the reason and the need for having this bus, the hike in bus fares. There are other issues affecting the industry that we have also spoken to them about but it seems that we speak and they don’t listen. Our cry is not just for us , it’s for the Belizean, the general public on a whole. Something must be done and needs to be done and it needs to be done urgently.”